RSS Feed

Tag Archives: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Three pieces of literature that taught us true things about love

Three pieces of literature that taught us true things about love

And what it all comes down to is that love as an emotion is so powerful, every writer and his grandfather must use it in one way or another. From the star-crossed lover theme to unrequited love, poetry, drama and novels just plunk it in there. It was obviously easy to get it right at first (My love is like a red, red rose indeed). But as time passed, people changed. What’s more, facebook was invented and with it came relationship statuses. So literature started fucking it up. We got all manner of insipid pulp lit, supposedly about strong confident women, but with a love story at the heart of it. We got 50 shades of grey.

Wait, wait. This is not another one of my superior rants. I’m actually going to talk about books that got it right. There are several but only three have impacted my life and my perception of relationships that hold a romantic tenor.

The scene where lady Macbeth goes all “Be a man!” “From this time/ Such I account thy love.” OUCH. From Macbeth. Don’t even deny it. Sometimes in a relationship, the girl gets the guy to do stuff he wouldn’t do normally, by hinting delicately that he might not be man enough to rise to the occasion. It might not be as dramatic as murder, like it was over at casa Macbeth. But still, “Oh. Okay. I don’t know. Whichever guys I know think nothing of killing lizards. It’s sport to them.” Check. And mate.

Gloria and Anthony Patch from The Beautiful and the Damned. When insecure meets insecure, there can be no awesome. Write that down and put it up on the fridge. In my experience, the more insecure you are, the more you’ll stress out about not appearing insecure. It’s only human nature. That’s why in relationships, two messed-up souls who seem to have it together only end in tragedy. This makes for great and poignant story lines. But off the page, its more hysterical weeping over vodka martinis, punching walls, threatening to throw the beloveds possessions into a river or taking penknives to mattresses to carve out names into the coir. I may or may not have seen all of this in real life. Living in women’s hostels can be pretty instructive.

Scarlet and Rhett from Gone with the Wind. There I go defying my hipster-ness by citing the most talked about love story of all time after Romeo and Juliet (I’ll never be that much of a sellout.). The Scarlet and Rhett angle to love is the most amazing, because the can’t-see-past-the-end-of-ones-nose philosophy (Props Mary Poppins) happens to one in every four people. “Oh my god. Eddie liked me, when I liked Joe. But I actually liked Eddie all along. Isn’t that the craziest”? Cosmic misdirection and misread signals are the hugest part of this ladka-ladki chakkar. And only one novel nailed it.

Advertisements

This side of awesome: A tribute to F Scott Fitzgerald

This side of awesome: A tribute to F Scott Fitzgerald

These tributes we write week on week can be quite tiresome. Often, we aren’t saying anything that hasn’t already been said. As for the writing we have to find the right balance between admiration and restraint. This means we can never do the written word equivalent of taking our T-shirts off and throwing them onto a metaphorical stage. Okay, we’d never do that. But with heroes like Fitzgerald, it can get pretty touch and go.

If you haven’t read any Fitzgerald or worse, are undecided about his awesomeness, (All sorts to make this world, I tell you), read on. First order of the business of being a legend – the writing. Fitzgerald is the author you read if you want to fall in love with language. He uses words to make shapes and sounds and he paints scenes so vivid, you wonder whether you were actually there. His stories are so damn visual that the written word becomes a captivating technicolour action film. And that’s me speaking as a representative of my generation,with its short attention spans and impatience. Dialogue is never just dialogue – it’s sharp insight into a characters soul.

And the characters, they’re so terribly lovely. His protagonists shimmer. Wholesome people are staid and boring; for Fitzgerald, only the fabulous will do. There is only room for the deeply beautiful, the deeply damaged. A Fitzgerald’s character is the last glass of heady wine that you probably shouldn’t have had and which you will definitely regret in the morning. He’s the comely, flirtatious, too smooth-to-be-true guy at the bar. Larger than life. Fantastic. Adventurous.

Fitzgerald has been hailed for chronicling the jazz age.  I wasn’t alive then so I couldn’t say that he did or didn’t but if the jazz age was anything like the world he portrays in his books then gimme some of that. Pulsing hot music, massive lawn parties, swing dances, beaded fringed dresses, flappers, cigarette holders, women who throw their heads back when they laugh, suave men who light your cigarette, refill your martini glass and open the car door for you. Still, despite the thrill of the world he paints, he manages to show the hollowness of its core. As a writer, he skilfully builds us up, to dash us cruelly down. Just like his characters, we revel at the height of good fortune and then we cry when we fall from grace. If like me, you enjoy books and films that make you cry with their portrayal of poignancy, truth and beauty, then you’ll be a sucker for Fitzgerald.

You know how at some point all of us have said some version of, “Well, wait till I’m rich and famous. Then you guys can suck it.”? Fitzgerald actually accomplished this. Except, in his case he did it for a chick. That’s right. This side of paradise, happened because the beautiful Zelda Sayre turned him down. He wrote it in the three years he was enlisted, and surprise, surprise, it was genius. He shot to fame. Zelda agreed to get with him. Boom. And now that we’ve raked out the trivia, key plot points and some fantastic dialogue was taken word for word from the writers life, so much so that he said once, “Sometimes I don’t know whether Zelda and I are real or whether we’re characters from one of my books.” Which means, if we were ever to meet him in real life, he’d be every bit as awesome as his work.

Martin Amis said that when we say that we love a writer’s work, we are always stretching the truth: what we really mean is that we love about half of it. That much is true. I’ve read The great Gatsby, the Beautiful and the Damned and Tender is the night. I loved the first two enough to want to have their babies. Tender is the night, on the other hand, was a disappointment. Sure, there were a couple of classic moments, (A Fitzgerald bad is still pretty good,) but it sounded like he was trying too hard. The narrative tone is defeatist, tired before its characters tire, disillusioned, discontent, despairing. And if you think about it, he was all of these things when he was writing the book. Somehow, this makes me like him even more. He is his characters. He’s beautiful, he’s flawed. He’s Dick Diver, brilliant but tired of it all too soon, he’s the arrogant Gloria Patch and her cowardly husband Anthony. His life reflects itself vividly in his art. Beautiful and crushing. Grand but terribly sad and hopeless.

– Sheena

Who’s black, bald and does not look like a bitch?

Posted on
Who’s black, bald and does not look like a bitch?

If your answer is Marcellus Wallace, it’s because you heard these three attributes before you even saw him.

Last week, the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s adaption of Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby hit the interweb. I am still skeptical of Luhrmann after Australia (Can you blame me?) but Sheena is outrageously excited. “The great Gatsby isn’t really big on plot or action, but it’s a very visual book. And if the wildly exhilarating Moulin Rouge is any indication, Luhrmann is pretty big on flamboyant visual imagery. And Leonardo DiCaprio is a good choice for Gatsby,” she says.

Last week, a friend of mine described what he imagined the characters of The Hunger Games were like and pretty much got everything wrong according to the movie. “Rue looks like that girl from Hugo or like Knives from Scott Pilgrim. Cinna looks like Stephen Fry.”

Most writers don’t describe too many physical attributes of a character. Vague descriptions like, tall, long fingers, round eyes or something. Never enough to visualize an entire person. For years, Hermoine Granger was just an unformed body of vapour with buckteeth and bushy hair. 

Sometimes the description doesn’t come with the introduction of the character. You’ve already followed John into depths of his adventure and now, 300 pages in, he is making love with soon-to-be Mrs Doe, you realize he has long arms, a dimple and is redheaded. And you were imagining a skinny midget with cankles.

Sometimes a name is enough to conjure up an image and no amount of detail will change it. Imagination is a wonderful thing. But everyone’s head works differently.

But then the movies happened. Making an absolute mess of your mind’s eye.

With adaptations, characters are in front of you, in the flesh. It sparks debate; “Will Andrew Garfield make a good spiderman?” “Sirius Black should have been like Morpheus big, bald and badass” and the usual, “I don’t care, the book is infinitely better.”

I have no problems with film adaptions. In fact, if it’s done well, it packs dense but good literature into a manageable matinee sized bite.  But when movies release while you are still reading a series, it will ruin the book and that’s the plain truth. The actors faces get jammed into your head, without your permission. I can’t read Sherlock Holmes any more without both Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch zooming in and out of my head. Strangely, Jude Law is never Watson. Never.

While this is part rant and part observation, Here’s what I want to know. What do you consider the worst casting in a movie? Which character complete baffled you? It’s a bit premature, but for me, it just might be Suraj Sharma from Life of  Pi.

The He-who-must-not-be-named of punctuation

Posted on
The He-who-must-not-be-named of punctuation

There are several things that I feel strongly about. Matthew Perry wearing a baseball cap backward to portray a younger character. Posers who say, “Silas Marner? Oh yes, lovely book. I don’t remember much of it. I read it when I was four.” People who gobble up the triple word score squares on a scrabble board with words like “quiz.” Yet one thing beats all. Exclamation marks (or depending on how cool you are, exclamation points.)

These things should never have been invented. They’re like that bumptious guy at a party, who thinks he has a great future in stand up comedy and decides to test all his material on you. Fitzgerald said that exclamation points were a way of laughing at your own joke. Writers the world over, heed this man. If you don’t listen to Fitzgerald, who are you going to listen to? Do you like laughing at your own jokes? Do you want to be that guy?

Most feature stories I’ve read use the offending thing at least once, thus managing effectively, to worsen an average-but-bearable story in one fell swoop.

“Everyday Anusha Mikhail wakes up at Four am, packs her kids lunch for school, writes a page of her journal, feeds the cat, does an hour of power yoga and then makes daisies out of sunshine and scattersthem hither and thither. Talk about a superwoman!”

Whenever I encounter a sentence that ends in an exclamation mark, it makes me grind my teeth in fury. My hair, if I may use a Wodehouse, stands on end like quills upon the fretful porcupine. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, that there are other things to live for – More television by Aaron Sorkin, A suitable girl by Vikram Seth, Community season four. I marshal my inner Hyde, shrug and say stoically “whatever. That’s cool.” But the words come out as incoherent snorts.

One exclamation mark is bad enough but there are some chuckleheads who use *shudder* more than one, as in:-

“Gary McDonald sure is a hard taskmaster!!!!!”

Or worse, the kind who sit the fence or try to be ironic with it.

“And there I was, drenched head to toe with undistilled potassium permanganate (!)”

Exclamation marks are a poor cover for bad writing. They’re a lump of cream-based concealer on a throbbing pimple. They hide nothing. They’re sensationalist but unsubstantial. They’re all sizzle, no steak. Keep them away from me. They make me violent.

– Sheena

Six dead people we wouldn’t have a drink with

Six dead people we wouldn’t have a drink with

Six dead people we wouldn’t have a drink with (Even though they’re awesome)

Gandhi

He ousted the British using only abstract concepts. He basically said “Nyah Nyah” to every school bully who shouted “You’re gay for not fighting.” He was the man, a beacon of hope, a figure of inspiration, a leader of men. Would we grab a cold one with him? Er, we already have plans. We’re cool with the Mahatma being a vegetarian, but he’s the judgmental sort of vegetarian which means that every bite of chicken would go down with a reproving lecture on foods that give you “a happier existence”. And oh he didn’t drink (we were getting there, smartass) which means his “cold one” would probably be a ….water. Not cool.

Helen Keller

Sharanya;  Hi Helen, karaoke?

Helen: xxxksjdhsjdhf

Sheena: Huh?

Helen: jhsdfhuygudf

*writes on hand*

Disturbing.

TS Eliot

Lit students everywhere: Five words: Tradition and the Individual Talent. Yep, there’s that familiar pang of annoyance. This is not literature, that is not literature. Hey Mr. Choosey-beans, come on man. TS Eliot was brilliant but he’s also a snob and incredibly hard to please. That works well, if you like your drinks with a big side helping of I’m-more-intelligent-than-you-sucker. Which we don’t.

John Lennon

Lennon forms a quarter of a big old pie of super awesome. He is a treasure. But as a drinking buddy, he is the equivalent of that nauseating guy that just got dumped and won’t stop talking about it.

Imagine there is no buzz; it’s easy if you try. Nothing to drink or dance for, John is sappy and a bore. See, thinking of drinking with Lennon is making us rhyme. We hate rhyming.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Charming. Creative gold. Well-dressed. Impeccable prose (almost poetry) to his credit. He knew his cocktails. And he definitely knew a thing or two about partying, yes, yes. Oh, but his choice in women. He’d probably babysit his all-over-the-place-but-engaging-wife right in the middle of my “Nick Carraway was the perfect flawed narrator” speech. Damn. So close.

Sylvia Plath

If you like running all around a bar trying to stop a crazy lady from breaking bottles, jumping on a bar and throwing fries in the air, go ahead and ask Sylvia Plath for a drink.

P.S – If she suggests you go oven shopping, run.

%d bloggers like this: